Democrats Poised for Heavy Senate Losses

Wednesday, 19 May 2010 03:31 PM

By George Will

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The candidate who on Tuesday won the special election in a Pennsylvania congressional district is right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama's healthcare plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet's thermostat. This candidate, Mark Critz, is a Democrat.

And that just about exhausts the good news for Democrats on a surreal Tuesday when their presumptive candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut — the state's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal — chose to hold a news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to discuss why he had falsely said he fought in a foreign war. National Democrats may try to find a less damaged candidate for Connecticut, but first they may have to do that in Illinois.

Their candidate to hold the Senate seat Obama held, Alexi Giannoulias, has a problem: The failure of the bank owned by his family — it made loans to Tony Rezko, the convicted developer who helped Obama with a 2006 property transaction — may cost taxpayers many millions. Proving his credentials as a disciple of the president, Giannoulias blamed the bank's failure on George W. Bush.

Illinois Democrats have already had to replace the colorful fellow they nominated for lieutenant governor. Five days after the primary, in a bar, during the Super Bowl, South Side pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen wept as he bowed out beneath a cloud of controversies about a 2005 arrest for domestic battery against a former girlfriend — he was accused of holding a knife to her throat — and complaints of spousal abuse and revelations of steroid use.

If Democrats lose Obama's former seat, as they are almost certain to lose Joe Biden's in Delaware, and as they may lose the Nevada seat currently held by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, they will achieve a negative hat trick in November, losing all three of the so-called "trophy contests."

Democrats and, not amazingly, many commentators say Republicans are the ones with the worries because they are nominating strange and extreme candidates. Their Exhibit A is Rand Paul, winner of Kentucky's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Well. It may seem strange for a Republican to have opposed, as Paul did, the invasion of Iraq. But in the eighth year of that war, many Kentuckians may think he was strangely prescient. To some it may seem extreme to say, as Paul does, that although the invasion of Afghanistan was proper, our current mission there is "murky." But many Kentuckians may think this is an extreme understatement.

Recently Utah's conservative three-term Sen. Robert Bennett was eliminated from contention for this year's Senate nomination by two even more conservative candidates. Many Democrats and commentators who had not hitherto been histrionic about their high regard for Bennett mourned his loss as evidence that the Republican Party, the health of which they say concerns them greatly, is becoming unhealthy.

One of the two Utah candidates, Mike Lee, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito, has been in Washington espousing such strange aspirations as repeal of Obamacare and No Child Left Behind. He is extremely eager for the Supreme Court to stop construing the Constitution's Commerce Clause as a license for Congress to do whatever it wants as long as it asserts that what it wants involves regulating interstate commerce. Lee and Rand Paul will get along.

Paul is, of course, the son of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and shares some, but not all, of the views of his father. Concerning whom: Ron Paul's book "End the Fed," which explains his animus against the central bank, has on its dust jacket just one blurb. It is a famous name but given a million guesses you would not hit upon it: Arlo Guthrie.

He, too, is the son of a famous father — Woody Guthrie, the Depression-era composer and singer of leftist songs. Arlo's libertarian leanings were already strong on Thanksgiving Day 1965 when he had a famous run-in with government in the form of Officer Obie in Stockbridge, Mass. The story — it had something to do with illegally dumping trash — is told in the song "Alice's Restaurant."

More than four decades later, Arlo evidently decided he shares Ron Paul's hot dislike for the subject of Paul's book, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. Has American politics ever been this entertaining?

George Will's e-mail address is georgewill@washpost.com.

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